Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.
Many landowners depend on professional operators to help get things done on their property. This includes weed control. Finding the right person for the job is important. The process starts with knowing what you are looking for.
Like most forestry management practices, weed control is actually a mix of different activities. Depending on what you know and can do yourself, hiring a chemical applicator means you are actually looking to hire a mix of knowledge and skill, equipment and labor.
It is important to get this right. Otherwise you may waste money or injure your trees. Worse still, it could mean causing damage to the environment or a neighbors’ crops, either of which would create a liability issue for you.
So how do you go about selecting the right chemical applicator for you? In conversations with some forestry professionals and landowners recently, it all boiled down to communicating about needs and expectations. Here are some key questions and things to discuss before hiring a chemical applicator to work on your property.
Questions to ask potential providers:
What are your qualifications?
Before you hire anyone to apply chemicals, you want to know that they are qualified to do the job well, legally, safely and will not
create a liability for you. Here are some specific things to talk about:
- Ask to see their commercial and/or consulting applicators license and proof of business insurance. Are they current?
- Ask about their forestry application experience. Who have they worked for? What types of application have they done?
- Ask about their familiarity with ODF forest practice rules for spraying buffers, weather restrictions, record keeping, and using restricted herbicides such as atrazine.
- Are they up to speed on training their workers about the new worker protection standards?
- Are they qualified to develop spray prescriptions?
What services do you provide?
It is important that you be clear about the services you are looking for so you can determine if the operator has the knowledge,
equipment and staff needed for your job.
Specific herbicides are used in many different situations such as site preparation (before) or release (after planting) to control both leafy and woody plants. It can be done in different ways including broadcast spray, spot or directed spray, “hack and squirt” or stump treatment and using different tools such as backpack, vehicle mounted sprayers or squirt bottle. The right combination and approach
(generally referred to as the “prescription”) depends on the season, type of weed and crop tree species.
- Clarify what parts of the job you are doing yourself and what you are hiring for – developing the prescription, doing the application, or maybe both. Does that match their qualifications?
- What types of application can they do and what equipment do they use?
- Who will provide the chemicals for the job?
- Who will submit the “Notice of Operation” to the Oregon Department of Forestry for the application? You or them?
How will work be done?
- Ask about their workforce (number and size of crews). What experience and certification does the foreman overseeing your job have?
- Will they be able to get your job done in the timeframe that it needs to be sprayed?
- What photos or maps do they need from you to make sure they and their crew understand exactly where to spray?
- Will the operator provide you with official chemical application records in a timely manner? These include specific chemicals, location and rates at which they were applied, information on weather conditions during application, etc.
How will I be charged for your services?
There are a variety of ways to work this out. It is important that you communicate expectations and reach a clear agreement up front.
Shop around for bids and check references.
- Ask how they charge. Itemized by time, travel and materials, or by the acre?
- Ask about billing and when is payment due.
- Do they guarantee their work? Will they come back and fix something if it isn’t done right? How will you determine satisfactory service?
- Get an estimate for the job.
Where to look for a chemical applicator
The list of qualified chemical applicators in an area is constantly changing. Here are some ways to find potential operators.
- Your local landowner association!
- Ask other landowners who they use and any issues they have had to deal with.
- Ask a neighboring industrial forester if they could share contacts for applicators they use
- State Department of Forestry and Extension offices
- Although they cannot make specific recommendations, both may be able to provide a list of applicators in your area.
There you have it, my short list of questions to think about before calling potential spray operators and some things to discuss when talking to them. I hope it is helpful. Did I miss something important that you have learned? Let me know.
My thanks to Jeff Classen (ODF), Shaney Emerson (Helena Chemical), Rita Adams (Benton County landowner) and the others who shared their ideas on this.